04/26/2007 - When Pope Benedict XVI landed in São Paulo's Guarulhos International Airport on May 9, he entered a religious landscape very different from the one that confronted his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, on his first visit to Brazil nearly three decades ago, in 1980.
Brazil is still the world's most Catholic country, at least in raw demographic terms, but it is also fast becoming one of the world's most pentecostal countries – with a rapidly growing number of seculars as well. Not surprisingly, as the pope kicks off the fifth general conference of the Latin American bishops on May 13, near São Paolo at Aparecida, the influence of secular values and the dramatic growth of pentecostal 'sects" will be high on the agenda.
Brazil is the most populous country in Latin America and the fifth most populous overall, with about 180 million people. Moreover, it boasts a Roman Catholic population of about 130 million, according to the latest national census in 2000, making Brazil the largest Catholic country in the world. However, a recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows that Catholic dominance is steadily eroding. Unlike in Europe, where the majority of former Catholics have simply become secular, in Brazil, many are turning to pentecostalism.
Read the full report Pope to Visit 'Pentecostalized' Brazil: Survey Shows Growing Movement Threatens Catholic Dominance on the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life Web site.